Review: Observance

Observance is an intriguing enough concept that is technically astute but big on making promises and also failing to deliver on them.

It is a tale of a private investigator, Parker (Lindsay Farris) who is mourning the death of his son, William (Gabriel Dunn), but also saddled with massive debt from hospital bills. Due to that fact he goes back to work seeking some easy quick cash, and gets a lot more than he bargained for.

A film so focused on visuals, with such wonderful compositions, so willing to play into the implicit pleasure of voyeurism; is always welcome. The flashes are well-conceived and -constructed. The framing, and camera moves are precise, some of the vistas offered as a break of the claustrophobic environs are breathtakingly beautiful. However, when the film finally does speak and offer morsels, it ends up being sorely lacking.

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The audio mixing/editing, in a rare treat, is creatively involved in the storytelling. As his subject, Tenneal (Stephanie King), scarcely leaves her apartment he can set up video surveillance equipment but not audio. This allows us to look with him and not hear for a while. His opportunity to set up bugs offers some wonderful suspense as he has to get in an out unseen. After the equipment is in the mix remains creative as the audio is imperfect and he has to try to sweeten & filter it to hear them better.

All this makes the Observance engaging to an extent but a film cannot thrive on technique alone, the story has to do most of the heavy lifting and that’s where the issues come in.

Plot elements and details, as well as horror touches, are sparse. This is not to say that to succeed in the horror genre an excess of details are required. However, more than a few salient points about the protagonist’s trauma, and even fewer about the purported mystery he’s witnessing come forth. The tip of the hat to Rear Window is most certainly not coincidental. However, what most voyeuristic cinema deliver is what this film fails to do: increase clarity and suspense. While some scares are delivered and some details are revealed the curtain is never drawn back enough such that the opacity,  it fails to reach out from the narrative miasma it creates and draw you in.

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This is the kind of film that is designed to get vastly disparate reactions it would seem. While the effort is greatly appreciated the lack of specificity it offers is too much of an obstacle to overcome.

5/10

Review: The Perfect Husband

The Perfect Husband on the surface seems to seek to bring an old school Euro shocker to our shores, but unlike the films of the ‘70s and ‘80s which are its forebears there is little new or compelling.

Reeling from a stillbirth Viola (Gabriella Wright) and her husband Nicola (Bret Roberts) head off to a cabin in the woods (that old chestnut) for a little R&R to try and rekindle the romance in their relationship.

Even those facts take a while to roll out, and there is little that’s learned about the characters that makes them particularly worth investing your emotional currency in. The characters are without much dimension and the performances don’t do anything to round them out as they are grossly subpar.

The Perfect Husband Dinner

That would be bad enough but then the dialogue is more than once risible (and laughing at the bad is not something I’m prone to), but wait there’s more. Or should I say less?

A film having boring, played machismo can work if and only if you have something unique to say with it. Here there is not so you’re left feeling flat and not particularly interested.

The film does try a now-old trick that rarely works (specifics withheld to avoid spoilers); here it improves things but only some because the logic of things beforehand is atrocious. There are some gaffes that make one roll ones eyes are a silly horror movie trope exemplified occurred. In a physical confrontation between ax-wielding husband and defenseless wife she manages to loose the ax from his clutches, she grabs it, and promptly proceeds to toss it aside about six feet away, which for those keeping track, is still perilously close for an ax to be when a psychotic assailant is trying to kill you.

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Regardless of whether or not the massive twist works for you, it is a game changer and one that to me only upgraded it from abject failure minimally of value.

Furthermore, aside from the usual horror movie tropes there are even before the twist that is supposed to be seen as wonderfully clever but it isn’t because it really does cheat and badly, there is an excess of misogyny and cynicism without a bit of wit or critique that serves only to shock and awe and nothing more. Without having built characters well it cannot possibly rise to level of art but stays in the real of cheap, exploitative voyeurism of de minimis worth.

2/10

Rewind Review: This is It

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

This it It (2009)

This is It is a documentary about the rehearsal process for Michael Jackson’s never-to-be-realized series of concerts in London, which were to have occurred starting this summer. It is the kind of documentary that is set up for success on many fronts whether it be financially, aesthetically or in sating a public’s curiosity.
Financially the success was almost guaranteed. Immediately following Jackson’s death his body of work went on to dominate the Billboard charts for weeks on end and the film has been no different climbing to top spot in the box-office. It is already sure to threaten as the highest grossing documentary of all-time and likely to receive an extension on its two-week limited release which was never likely to stay limited.

 
In terms of aesthetics the accomplishment is more a feat of content than appearance, of vision rather than framing. Much of the footage being full-frame grainy video proves the axiom that people will accept poor image quality before poor sound. The success of this film really lies in the third aspect in which it was successful which is in documenting an event that was to be and satisfying curiosity thereof.
The fact that the film was, in fact, finished is no small feat in and of itself. Sony Pictures acquired the rights to the footage for $50 Million in July and immediately went into post-production on it prepping it for this release date. As a technical feat it’s impressive no doubt but it has much to offer within that is worth seeing.

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The film starts with a rather personal approach showing us candid interviews with the dancers who were selected to partake in the show and they tell of their past somewhat, the audition process and what being in the show means to them. Soon after it goes into working on particular numbers and we are allowed to see the creative process at work both from Jackson’s perspective and in collaboration with director Kenny Ortega.
We see lighting get added, music being refined, film segments being shot against green screen and just a small taste of the epic scale that this series of concerts was to have and even on celluloid and without a live audience there to witness it, it’s rather impressive.
Perhaps the best part of the film is that it remains focused on the show on highlighting the numbers and the production, and what it couldn’t show through rehearsal footage it discussed in interviews, for example, costume pieces that were not yet complete like the “Billie Jean” costume. In zeroing in on the show it also didn’t lose focus on Jackson as an artist and even with a freeze frame and a title card at the end it didn’t get too bogged down in playing up a melodramatic and sensationalistic ending. If you want to draw parallels between the rehearsals and his tragic death you can but it is not a tabloid film, thankfully.
Resisting the temptation to give too much away allow this critic to say merely this: the best thing about this film when it was first announced seemed to be the fact that it seemed to be completing an unfinished work, or coming as close to doing so as humanly possible. The film does that and more so giving us a glimpse into what was likely to have been the biggest and best show the young century has seen.

Michael Jackson's "This Is It"
The concert series being designed to stay on one stage and not needing to travel made it a different creature entirely and this film showed how Jackson was taking his video ingenuity and bringing it to the stage and he was most definitely a driving force as the repeated conversations between him and Ortega throughout illustrate.
Unlike, some music docs that take you off stage, behind the scenes and into the personal lives of the artist, this was about the show. This film was about This is It and that’s it and that was more than enough. Despite the pace being a little slow in the middle it’s still a great ride.
8/10

Blu-Ray Review: City of the Dead (1960)

City of the Dead (1960)

It seems as if this film has always been plagued a bit by its title. Its original British title, which it now goes by everywhere, City of the Dead, sounds like many a zombie film through the ages rather than a tale about witches and witchcraft. Its original US title did not really serve a use, however, as Horror Hotel makes the film feel more schlocky and bloody than it is. What City of the Dead is is a story told in wholly Gothic, aggressively fog-laden style and quite effectively done.

On occasion this film is as transparent but highly enjoyable nonetheless. It features a narrative told with a truncated running time allows it an almost El Mariachi-like replicative structure. It kicks off with a great teaser that leads to an awesome introduction for the late great Christopher Lee.

Christopher Lee in this film is given quite the interesting role to work with. It starts with an impassioned, excellently delivered monologue and builds in intrigue from there. While it’s not the largest of his roles it does much to buoy this film throughout. His presence grows to make an impression that belies the amount of screen time he’s allotted.

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With almost any work in the horror genre the score is a crucial piece of the puzzle, and this film, so dead set on creating atmosphere and so simple in its plotting clearly needs to succeed in this facet and does so to tremendous effect.

As much as this film relishes the artifices of more classical horror techniques its rooting itself in historical precedent and wanting to carve a fictional enclave amidst historical happenings is highly commendable indeed. One might watch this film and consider it to be dated. However, with older films that is a conversation that is mostly moot to me. All films are created for the times in which they exist, even ones borrowing older techniques. Timelessness is an alchemistic accident that cannot be manufactured.

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This film works for what it wants to accomplish: a chilling, moody, Gothic witch tale and is well worth seeking out for the program alone but it even more worth it for fans and neophytes alike for the myriad bonus features the Blu-ray release includes such as:

Horror Hotel, the American Version of City of the Dead

Alternate cuts, even when they are shown to be inferior are always useful for learning.

Not one, not two, but three feature-length commentaries:

  • Bruce Hallenbeck
  • Actor Christopher Lee
  • Director John Moxey

Three interviews, which are lengthy:

  • Christopher Lee
  • Actor Venetia Stevenson
  • John Moxey

Plus:

  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Photo Gallery
  • Liner Notes by Mike Kenny, Film Reviewer
  • English Subtitles

City of the Dead can be purchased directly from VCI or other online retailers such as Amazon.

Rewind Review: Bridesmaids

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Bridesmaids (2011)

Timing is interesting and I think if I sat down to write this yesterday It might’ve been rather uninteresting, however, today is when I writing anything and it’s after having read a very interesting New York Times article about the “Jokeless Comedy.” Bridesmaids is mentioned there and it fits the more character-driven mold Sternbergh makes reference to.

As with any approach, it has its pros and cons and some cons can be avoided entirely if executed perfectly or very, very well. While it is very funny and enjoyable Bridesmaids doesn’t hit all the marks perfectly.

One of the best parts of the film is through these ladies, even in their silly exploits, we find quite a bit of commentary on youth, parenting, marriage, self-pity, jealousy, etc.

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The script which is co-written by star Kristen Wiig is rather strong in building its protagonist and breaking her down. It also very tenuously is able to laugh at her misfortune with out feeling sorry for her. This is made more difficult by the fact that it seeks sympathy and not pity but it succeeds.

It will never be a fault of a film if they attempt and take the time to build character and this film does. This films builds it and builds it well but the only sin that can be committed is building too much. The over-building and a montage too many have happen in Act II making it a bit too long. Not too much of the information is redundant but some of it is.

This makes the film a bit longer than it should be and not too many laughs are added to the mix because of it. Judd Apatow is attached as producer to this film and another mandate of his lately apparently is that no film shall less than two hours long. This is not to say comedies ought never be that long but the reason so many run 90 minutes is because it works. It’s still just as hard but it’s easier to get your momentum up and keep the laughs rolling.

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The cast of the film is brilliant, which helps greatly. Kristen Wiig does carry the film very well both in dramatic and comedic scenes. Maya Rudolph also does very well and makes a great partner for Wiig. Melissa McCarthy frequently steals scenes but Wendi McLendon-Covey was not to be outdone either.

So all in all the film is quite funny but I’d be hard-pressed to call it one of the funnier films in recent years, however, it is definitely recommended.

8/10

Review: Antboy 3

To say simply that DC/WB can take to watching this Danish mini-franchise to learn a thing or two, and leaving it at that, would make it a backhanded compliment to a film deserving of plaudits on its own merits and not just those at the expense of a financial and marketing juggernaut that should know and do better.

The successive build in the Antboy series has been absolutely outstanding. Not only have themes, reversals, and evolution of characters springboarded off the prior installment; but the coalescence of the trilogy here results in a film of breeze-like efficiency of pace, seamless incorporation of themes, and true emotional resonance that can be enjoyed by audiences of any age. By taking two cinematic tropes, kids and superheroes, that are quite often fodder for building characters that are thinly developed and under-served, these films have faced uphill battles but each time taking the climb haves succeeded more resoundingly each time out.

Rather than over-crowding the film with new-to-the-series characters it instead focuses on the change of circumstances and heart of personae who are already well known to the audience, or so we think. Moreover, similar to other “Watching These Kids Grow” series that have become more commonplace in the 21st Century, the growth as performers by Oscar Dietz, Samuel Ting Graf and Amalie Kruse Jensen has been spectacular over the course of these films.

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The ensemble is bolstered by the returning Astrid Juncher-Benzon and among the older set Nicholas Bro and joining for this film Paprika Steen (2008 BAM Award Nominee – Best Ensemble The Substitute).

If you’re jumping in at this point, some impact will be lost of joining the series here, but it’s still enjoyable and communicates well as a standalone. It is also a film that succeeds in large part because its focus is narrow (these heroes are concerned with their hometown only not the entire world), and then it narrows it further focusing on these characters struggles both within their alter ego and without. It’s a tremendously refreshing breath of fresh air.

While the Antboy series of books total six numbered editions and a follow-up, similar to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid, three seems to be the logical end for this series in narrative terms and in logistical ones. Where as this series has wiggle room as a new phase of life is embarked upon, if that should not happen a chapter has closed and the films have been a rousing triumph.

10/10

Rewind Review: Brüno

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Brüno 

I think the most common mistake reviewers will make is to try and compare this film to Borat. While it stars the same man and follows in the same style & formula it needs evaluating on its own merits; just because Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright both joined forces for Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz doesn’t necessarily mean those two projects should be compared either.

Every one falls victim to it on occasion but comparative analysis and film criticism should be separate.

While that’s easy to say I think Brüno does pale slightly as compared to the burden of expectation I and others have placed, whether rightly or not, upon it. However, while it might not achieve the title of “Funniest Film of the Year” upon first viewing it is the kind of film for which time will be the ultimate barometer and not knee jerk reaction.

Sacha Baron Cohen does not just seek to make us laugh he seeks to provoke thought, reaction and discomfort both in those he encounters and in the audience.

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I know some might argue the merits of a straight man doing this kind of “exposé” but that fact is commentary on society as well. For example, the issue of racism garnered national attention on a very wide level with the publication of Black Like Me in which a white journalist went undercover as a black man.

 Lastly, whether or not any part or more of it was scripted than previously also doesn’t concern me because as much as it masquerades as a documentary it is a piece of fiction.

Now that all the disclaimers and social commentary questions have been addressed moving on to the actual film, which when all is said and done will either be remembered as a film people find funny or not. 

It doesn’t just push the boundaries of good taste but far surpasses them. This reviewer personally found the film quite funny.

 Brüno does follow the same formula as Borat as noted earlier, specifically – a foreigner coming to USA and finding his own American dream, both rather vacuous is commentary in itself and a lightning rod for comedy.

The situations created in this film are memorable: the focus group, the gay converter, the boot camp, the music video, the swinger party, The Richard Bey Show, the Ron Paul and Paula Abdul interviews, the hunting trip, Mideast peace talk, photo casting and the psychic. The wrestling scene is great social commentary if one steps back for a moment and examines the situation. The audience reacted as if someone had died, and the ignorance displayed by the on-screen audience who actually believed the Straight Dave character was appalling.

Ultimately, it was an enjoyable and outlandishly funny film.

9/10

Blu-ray Review: Antonia’s Line (1995)

Introduction

For this film I actually saw the supplemental feature and read the essay before viewing it . It’s not the typical way I go about things but I figured this would be a good way to slip into the film I really didn’t know much about. I’ve seen quite a bit of contemporary Benelux cinema but things not in this decade I’m nowhere near as versed in. It’s proven to be a good approach.

Supplemental Feature

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The supplemental feature is a rather interesting one. It’s a feature interview from a Dutch TV show wherein the director, Marleen Gorris, discusses the editing of a scene, well a part of a scene really. It’s a tremendous bit as she talks about the way she cut together a three-second snippet could’ve drastically changed the interpretation of a scene. It really is wonderful insight into the editing process for those who may be uninitiated as it underscores the persistent decision-making process it is.

There is some discussion of the grander scheme of things, including scoring which is always insightful.

Trailers

The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe (1972, Film Movement Classics)

On these Film Movement Classics titles are typically other titles in their catalogue. That makes them most definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for new and intriguing titles.
Essay

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Par for the course, but still very much appreciated, is the inclusion of an essay on the film. This one is penned by Thelma Adams.

I’ve written quite a few times on the virtues of coming into a film a clean slate. However, that is not to say that a proper introduction that braces you for what is about to come can’t put you into the right frame of mind to appreciate a film. My favorite professor in film school set up films beautifully. Did I always love the film because of it? No, but I was able to find value and was ready to take it in.

Things discussed in the essay made me expect that I would come away from the film quite pleased: statements like “This film is more in school of Bergman, Fellini, and Lean,” and should be “savored like a rich port” and is told in picaresque and involves art, where “restrictive institutions interweave,” and features aspects of magical realism; furthermore, that it features WW II as a backdrop but not as the point of the film.

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Furthermore, there was the also the discussion of the F-word, meaning feminism. Here Adams bemoans Roger Ebert referring to the film as portraying a kind of “cheerful feminism” “God forbid, serious feminism,” she later laments. Even the pull-quote on back that the movie is “Sexy” seems to be underserving a truly great work.

However, the revelation was not immediate but gradual, and sudden, and all at once as I will explain below.
Film

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In the realm of film there is a a land beyond foreshadowing, shall we call them The Shadowlands in a lame attempt at a Merchant Ivory joke? No. OK, my point being there are some films that would rather lay all their cards on the table immediately an tell you: ultimately, this is about the journey rather than the final destination. This is a film about Antonia, as the original title suggests, and her friends, relatives and generations, as the English title suggests.

The film starts immediately with you acknowledging the fact that Antonia will die at the end of the story. It’s the vast majority of her life, the change in her, her provincial hometown, and her family, that you will be privy to in this tale. Not the overly-contrived twists of typical genre film but the expected and unexpected twists in life. As dour and artfully European as that may strike the American viewer, it’s an incontrovertibly rich, nuanced, funny and heartfelt film.

My initial reaction to it was that it’s quite nearly immaculate. I hate using terms such as that because I’m always wary of falling into the hype trap either as a viewer or setting one up as a reviewer. However, having viewed supplemental materials before the feature I was left in that defensive Show-me-something posture through much of film. Suddenly, nearly unnoticed, a corner is turned, invisibly the light of hope amidst despairs, laughter amidst tragedy, and life amidst death brims to overflowing from this film. The holy and profane walk hand in hand in symbiosis – it is life.

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This invisible touch is felt, much like the passage of time, which is never indicated through the use of titles but by images and events. It flows like a stream, like life, seemingly languid at some points, jettisoning to the horizon far too quickly at other points.

The film also employs revelatory, useful, restrained if obvious use of sub-plotting through the narrative to make ancillary points to the main themes.

The florid narration that one could come to expect too much of from the Continent is beautifully wrought and well earned in a gorgeous, smile-inducing surprise.

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As if this film needs more accolades it is indeed one of those Academy Award winners that quote, truly deserved it, unquote. It’s a film that’s so good that I find it nearly an affront to it to discuss the feminist merits of it in the context of a standard review. Watch it, you’ll know what I mean. It’s spectacular.

10/10

Rewind Review: Charlie St. Cloud

Despite the fact that both the trailer and the synopsis of Charlie St. Cloud make it quite apparent that Charlie (Zac Efron) will lose his brother (Charlie Tahan) his brother in a tragic car accident the film still manages to be quite compelling which is rather impressive in and of itself. When one of the more crucial and emotionally wrenching facts about a film is a given the picture starts behind the eight ball but it manages quite nicely.

Another surprising element, without giving too much away, is that there is a twist within the telling of this tale but the nice thing about it is that the twist acts as part of a frame and not the lynchpin of the tale. Unlike many films which rely on a twist ending this one incorporates it into the storytelling without having the quality of the film hinge on whether or not you like the twist. In a sense the twist does not necessarily lie to you. While the rules of the preternatural visions are a bit hazy for much of the film by the end you’ve untangled them and see that what lies within the framed tale is still very much worth seeing.

In just over 10 minutes you get a sense for who Sam (Tahan) is and also the relationship that he and Charlie share. It is a good example of cinematic shorthand and what is also refreshing to see is that it was somewhat realistic. Due to the age difference Sam was frequently roughhousing with Charlie’s friends and didn’t have the cleanest vocabulary. However, just because it wasn’t Disneyfied saccharine doesn’t mean you didn’t feel the true emotions belied by the insults and punches thrown.

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The editing in this film is particularly strong not only in terms of making the story flow but especially allowing the story to have emotional impact. Prime examples of this are in the flashback sequences and in the car accident. Particularly the latter as it demonstrates the power of sound and does not sensationalize events but knows instead the power of the human imagination.
Another interesting thing is that this film had Look At You style casting in which a familiar face you haven’t seen in a while pops up in an unexpected film as a supporting character. There is Kim Basinger, who plays the boys’ mother. Her involvement is also early on as the story does do a time jump of five years, which is not easy to pull off. It is well handled particularly when Charlie hears “You haven’t changed a bit.” It’s stock dialogue but it is a concern that needs addressing when you take a character from high school senior to someone who should be just out of college and have the same actor play both with little to no change in appearance. There’s also Ray Liotta who plays a small but pivotal role as a paramedic who Charlie runs into later on by chance. There’s also Donal Logue as Tess’s (Amanda Crew) mentor, you may know him from the series Grounded for Life. Lastly, there’s Augustus Prew who I hadn’t seen in quite sometime and who most may only remember as Rachel Weisz’s unstable son in About A Boy, does the line “She doesn’t fancy him, she only fancies me!” being screamed ring a bell? All these supporting characters play a very important role in adding dimension just beyond the two main relationships of the film namely Charlie-Sam and Charlie-Tess.

While being supported by a very capable performance by Amanda Crew, the film is called Charlie St. Cloud and for good reason. Efron dominates the film and carries it with ease. For the first time in a while you see him playing a fully-rounded character and not just rounding out a rather simple one. It’s a side of him many may not know existed between all the High School Musicals and Hairspray, it might not be the better one but it is strong nonetheless. Regardless it’s a strong wrenching performance. If Efron can find musical work that can let him play a layered character we can see him at his fullest potential but the film musical is still on life support.

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What was also good to see was Burr Steers’ name as director. This marks his third feature and I’ve seen all of them and they are rather different from each other. First, there was a the sharp-witted, acerbic Igby Goes Down which was one of the best films of 2002. Then there was last year’s Efron star vehicle 17 Again, which while nothing special did have its moments of escaping the formula. While it’d be great to see of Steers has another writer/director gig in him it is good to see his versatility.

Overall, this was a cinematically and viscerally pleasing tear-jerker that is definitely worth seeing.

8/10

Rewind Review: Grown Ups

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Grown Ups (2010)

The film Grown Ups starts simply enough. It shows what may be the apex of these five friends lives collectively (a championship basketball game). It uses the death of their coach effectively to not only reunite these somewhat estranged friends but also to introduce them to us.

While this film passes with marginal colors one way in which it does excel is in that it it is rare for an all-star cast (granted how much of an all-star cast is open to some debate) to fit together this comfortably within the confines of a feature film. Some of that familiarity is due in part to the fact that Sandler, Rock, Spade and Schneider were contemporaries during the last true halcyon days of Saturday Night Light but Kevin James doesn’t fall by the wayside and fits in very comfortably with the aforementioned foursome.

The bottom line is that the film is funny, quite funny in fact. It absolutely revels in the nearly lost art of the one-liner especially in the one-line put down and as a straight comedy it works with absolutely no question. The film has other designs, however, and in trying to see those designs through that’s where some its failings shine through.

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One oddity, though not entirely a bad thing, is that the sports angle of the film is almost entirely subjugated. It is ultimately a good thing because then it might’ve wandered into the uncomfortable mildly funny Semi-Pro area and that would’ve been bad.

What that angle might’ve done for the film is drive it a little bit because the pace does struggle a little bit in the second act as each character, as head of the household, deals with their own issues. This slight lack of focus and insisting on inclusion rather than having the protagonist, Sandler, be a more driving force than he is does hurt things slightly.

The two things outside of just being funny that this film really tries to tackle head on are somewhat intertwined. They are: returning children to simpler pleasures and away from technology and modernity and not always putting career before family. These are both illustrated through the Hayek- (credited in this film as Salma Hayek Pinault) Sandler relationship. Things develop slowly and are infrequently at the forefront but because they are not developed quickly and addressed immediately the film lags slightly even though the resolution to these issues are ultimately satisfying.

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Another side-effect of the basketball being pushed into the background is that the antagonist and antagonism in general aren’t very present. The conflicts, when they occur, are typically intra-relationship. The antagonizers are the team they beat in said championship game years ago, thus making the lessening of the game seem an odd choice, until you see how it turns out, which in the end does fit the bigger picture but you just wish so much talk and time wasn’t spent on the rematch if it ultimately would not matter.

Looking at it from a purely comedic perspective it is a funny film and if you’re just out for a laugh it is enjoyable, if you want to have your cake and eat it too, meaning get a great movie along with the chuckles, you may go hungry.

6/10